James Franco is among the defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit wherein two plaintiffs allege the Academy Award nominee’s production company and acting and film school preyed on aspiring female actors to “create a stream of young women to objectify and exploit.”
The suit frames its allegations against the public response to what the plaintiffs refer to as Franco’s “sexually hostile, predatory and exploitative history” that came to lightafter the actor wore a “Time’s Up” pinto the 2018 Golden Globes. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the lawsuit charges that the defendants—who, in addition to Franco, include the actor’s RabbitBandini production house, the now-shuttered Studio 4 acting school and the entities’ co-owners—are responsible for “egregious wrongs to hundreds of student actors.”
According to the plaintiffs, Franco and co-defendants Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, through the RabbitBandini group of companies, “opted to sexualize their power and fame” by “dangling” in front of aspiring actors purported film and television opportunities “in exchange for explicit sexual nudity [and] sex.” The case alleges that those who fell victim to the defendants’ scheme were “even duped to pay for their exploitation” by participating in Franco’s acting school. According to the lawsuit, women were told opportunities for employment would increase “when they agreed to overt sexual acts, nudity, and performing in sex scenes—often in an orgy type setting.”
Additionally egregious is the plaintiffs’ claim that the defendants “forced Plaintiffs and all student-talent” to sign away their rights to explicit nude and sex scene auditions. Franco, the case alleges, told proposed class members that he wanted to “personally review each of the auditions and scenes himself – footage the case says “would be stored, maintained and used by” the defendants at their will. The collective pattern of conduct alleged by the plaintiffs speaks to what the suit decries as Franco’s aim to create a stream of women ripe for sexual exploitation who believed they could achieve success by participating in his acting school.
“While James Franco touted that one difference between Studio 4 and other acting schools was its ability to funnel promising talent into his projects, the reality was that he was looking to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” the complaint reads.
Though men and women participated in Studio 4’s acting program, the lawsuit claims that “the majority” of roles in “legitimate productions” ended up going to “non-students or young, attractive women” who gave in to the defendants’ sexually explicit requests. The suit further alleges that despite paying for Studio 4 classes and essentially the production of films proposed class members were told they would be cast in, many master class students “never saw any final footage of the productions they worked on.” Allegations of sexual misconduct and exploitation notwithstanding, the complaint stresses that proposed class members were deceived into paying tuition for a uniformly misrepresented and falsely advertised program.
“In actuality, Studio 4 was a fraudulent institution designed to circumvent California’s ‘Pay for Play’ regulations and lure students in by providing them false hopes of acquiring job opportunities with Franco’s productions, all while funding said productions through monthly tuition fees paid by these students and sexually exploiting and humiliating female students and actors,” the lawsuit states.
One named plaintiff is one of five women who accused Franco of sexually inappropriate conduct in a 2018Los Angeles Timesreport. According to the times, Franco’s attorney at the timedisputedthe plaintiff’s allegations in the proposed class action and directed the publication to comments made by the127 Hoursactor on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“If I have done something wrong, I will fix it—I have to,” Francosaid.
The lawsuit looks to certify a class of female student actors who enrolled in the defendants’ Studio 4 acting school and expressed interest in the company’s master classes and were subjected to sexual exploitation.